Hong Kong startup upcycles “ugly foods” as pet food

Learn about FurryGreen’s mission to use “ugly food” in pet food to help build a more sustainable food chain.

(Photo by Jimmy Chan)
(Photo by Jimmy Chan)

A startup company is leading the upcycling of discarded food and restaurant leftovers to create pet food packs for Hong Kong's dogs and cats, both in homes and shelters.

FurryGreen, founded in 2020, now has several varieties of sous vide pet food from salvaged ingredients headed for the landfills. 

The Hong Kong Environmental Protection Department said Hong Kong has a long history of throwing out huge amounts of food daily, both good and bad like leftovers and food waste. Eco-conscious FurryGreen said some of these “ugly foods” can still be nutritious and, when upcycled as pet food, can contribute to lowering the pet food industry's carbon footprint.

More on FurryGreen’s strategy

Pirry Leung, the co-founder of FurryGreen and someone with work experience at a food waste recycling facility, said they are the first upcycling pet food company in Hong Kong that saw the opportunity to bring unused food back into the food chain. Every day, his company gathers unsold vegetables in supermarkets, scrap or surplus meats from processing facilities and other sustainable ingredients from markets and restaurants. They also keep an eye out for ingredients that can still be upcycled such as leftover pumpkins after Halloween and ugly veggies from farms. 

“Veggies contain nutrients that are so needed in our furry friends’ diets,” said Leung. “The veggies should feed our dogs, not feed the landfill.”

At their kitchen, the ugly foods are washed, peeled, diced, mashed and placed in small individual bags. All the sachets then go through a slow steaming process to transform them into nutritious, delicious, eco-friendly, fresh pet food. Leung said sous vide is the best way to preserve the ingredients' nutritional values and flavors. No fillers, additives or preservatives go into FurryGreen pet food packs. The finished products are later frozen and can be reheated for eight to 10 minutes. 

A typical 100g bag of FurryGreen pet food contains one main vegetable and one main meat to ensure balanced nutrition, according to the company. The bags can stay fresh for four months in the freezer. FurryGreen can produce about 1,000 bags of pet food every week.

Next, the company plans to develop fresh food packs for cats made of fish and pumpkin as the combination will provide protein and fiber at the same time. So far, they offer 80g bags of duck- and chicken-based meals for cats. 

Rescued food for rescued dogs

FurryGreen donates a portion of its pet food production to charities that save Hong Kong's stray dogs. The company owners said seeing the shelter animals enjoy their upcycled pet food encourages them to develop more new products. 

Using ugly foods for human consumption may not be easily accepted by the public, but in pet food it creates an opportunity to slowly educate pet owners to give ugly foods a second chance and to not be wasteful. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations estimates that the world loses or wastes an astounding quantity of food every year — 1.3 billion tons fit for human consumption and 1.6 billion tons of so-called primary product equivalents.

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